Down three goals to the Columbus Blue Jackets as the third period got underway, the Flyers’ fifth try to surpass the .500 mark seemed as doomed as the previous four.
From the time they started this season, dropping their first three games, leading to the sudden departure of coach Peter Laviolette, it’s been an uphill climb for the orange and black.
So anyone who visualized a five-goal onslaught Thursday, capped by three goals in the final 4:39, with captain Claude Giroux providing both the tying and winning goals in a dazzling 2:08 in a stunning 5-4 win, raise your hands.
Didn’t think so.
“For us to get that step over .500 and get in that little race for playoffs it a little motivation for the guys,” said Giroux, who fired a blind backhand laser from a sharp angle over a shell-shocked Curtis McElhinney with 1:38 remaining for his 100th career goal. “Hopefully we can build on it.”
The two points, earned on a rare night when Steve Mason wasn’t sharp, vaulted the Flyers into third place and what would be the final playoff spot in the East for the first time all season. With a six-game road trip looming, they’ll need to play more than one good period to stay there or even improve on it.
“It’s always nice when you can look at it and see your team is in the playoffs,” said Craig Berube, as the Flyers extended their home ice winning streak to eight. “But there is a lot of work to be done. We talked before the game about moving up, being in a playoff spot, being above .500. What happened was we just ended up turning pucks over and we just got outworked. But they responded in the third period with a great effort from everybody, the goals went in and we ended up winning.”
Another former Blue Jacket, Jake Voracek, whose first period turnover at the blue line resulted in Cam Atkinson’s shorthanded goal to make it 1-0, got it started at the 4:20 mark. Just 1:02 later, Braydon Coburn’s seemingly harmless shot skipped off the ice past McElhinney to make it 3-2. But Columbus seemed to right itself after that, getting an opportunity goal from Blake Comeau to restore the two-goal margin at 8:35, then frustrating the Flyers over the next eight minutes.
Or so they thought. Once Erik Gustafsson hammered home a rebound on a delayed penalty with 4:39 remaining, the Flyers – in particular Giroux – would not be denied.
“I was just trying to get it on net,” said Giroux, now up to nine goals after going scoreless the first 15 games. “It was at the end of the shift so I was a little tired. It was just the kind of game where you get the bounces. Sometimes you don’t get the bounces. We got them this time.”
Now, following their first five-goal third period since March 2010, the Flyers have bounced over the .500 mark into legit playoff contention. Not bad for a team that was once 3-9.
“We got a little upset and we stepped up,” said Voracek, who had two assists to go with his goal. “We didn’t want to lose that game. We kind of knew in the back of our minds that we could win this game.”
Now for an encore, they get to go to Columbus against what’s sure to be an angry Columbus team and try to do it again. After stealing this one, though, do you really want to bet against them?